Praveen Swami

More troops withdrawal likely if violence dips: officials

  • Concern over CRPF's counter-terrorism abilities
  • It does not have a dedicated intelligence organisation

    New Delhi: Even as a decision has been taken to withdraw over 11,000 Border Security Force personnel from Jammu and Kashmir by next weekend, there are signs that New Delhi is experimenting with non-Army counter-terrorism forces at the local level.

    For example, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) battalion is due to be inducted later this month in Kokernag, a sensitive area in southern Jammu and Kashmir often used by terrorists to transit from mountain hideouts in Kishtwar. If terrorist violence does not escalate in these areas, a larger withdrawal of troops can be considered, officials say.

    New Delhi decided to hand over urban counter-terrorism operations to the CRPF in 2003, as a consequence of a Group of Ministers' report on internal security. BSF troops were gradually withdrawn from urban areas north of the Jhelum.

    However, the withdrawal plan got bogged down in concerns over the CRPF's ability to deal with the continuing terrorism.

    Prime Minister Manmohan Singh overrode these concerns in 2005 in an effort to consolidate his dialogue with the All Parties Hurryiat Conference. In September that year, the CRPF took charge of Srinagar, ending the BSF's 15-year presence in the city. While violence has not escalated, Srinagar has seen regular terrorist strikes a cause of some concern, which meant BSF components remaining in place to guard key installations such as the Raj Bhavan.

    While the CRPF is confident that it will be able to discharge its new responsibilities in Sopore, Tral, Pulwama, Chrar-e-Sharif and Doda, sceptics argue that the organisation has a poor record of independent counter-terrorism operations.

    Also, unlike the BSF, it does not have a dedicated intelligence organisation capable of intercepting terrorist communication and running networks of sources.

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